The Central Park Casino, situated at Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, was a premier New York City restaurant and nightclub, epitomizing the era of the Jazz Age. The Casino, with its grand dining room and perfectly polished dance floor, entertained some of the most prominent names in New York, from Tammany Hall politicians to Broadway stars and even royalty. Yet this exclusive, glamorous, and somewhat dangerous, appeal that was the Casino’s trademark, led to its demise during the darkest days of America’s great financial crisis. [Read more…] about Central Park Casino: The Epitome of Jazz Age New York City
The book Booze, Badboys & Bootleggers: North Country Tales Grandpa Never Told You (Self-Published, 2022) by James E. Reagen chronicles the early days of Prohibition in communities across St. Lawrence County. [Read more…] about Prohibition in St. Lawrence County: Booze, Badboys & Bootleggers
Few villages in New York State can lay claim to as rich a heritage as Rouses Point, and like the oft-used real-estate axiom says, there are three primary reasons — location, location, location.
As New York’s northeasternmost village, Rouses Point can be found at the north end of Lake Champlain. Bordering on Canada to the north and Vermont to the east, for decades it was a shipping and transportation crossroads, serving both water and rail traffic. [Read more…] about Rouses Point: A Northern New York Crossroads
As the ravages of the First World War and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic receded into the past, a new spirit gripped New York City. Energy seemed to infuse every aspect of city life, from business to leisure and everything in between. For a decade, New Yorkers by and large lived, worked and partied with abandon. [Read more…] about New York City In the Roaring 20s: A Primer
A loophole is an ambiguity or inadequacy in a legal text or a set of rules that people identify and use to avoid adhering to it. Exploiting loopholes in tax legislation by big corporations or wealthy individuals is a preoccupation of our time. The authorities fight a losing battle trying to plug them as lawyers specialize in finding new and profitable flaws. [Read more…] about Raines Law, Loopholes and Prohibition
Vannie Higgins (1897-1932) was a notorious Brooklyn gangster and rum-runner. He was born Charles Van Wyck Higgins in 1897 in Bay Ridge, son of Daniel and Helen (Nellie) Higgins. As a young boy he was involved in street corner brawls, then moved up the ladder to assaults, robbery and grand larceny. Although he had an extensive police record, he was usually able to squeeze out of any jail time. [Read more…] about Vannie Higgins: ‘Brooklyn’s Last Irish Boss’
Dennis Warren left his job as a coal shoveler on the New York Central Railroad in Albany to ship out to the First World War. His transport ship had a close call with a German submarine on the way over, but got there in time to take part in what one of the bloodiest military campaigns in American history.
For Americans after the war, the Argonne would mean what Normandy meant just 25 years later – sacrifice. Sadly, that sacrifice in the Argonne Forest was never repaid to Dennis Warren, who met the death of a smuggler – running from an officious and invasive law on a treacherous mountain road near Port Henry on Lake Champlain.
According to the newsman who reported his death at the age of 29, “Canadian Ale was spread across the road.” [Read more…] about Smugglers & The Law: Prohibition In Northern New York
Since it foundation, German settlers had been present in New Amsterdam (Peter Minuit was a native of Wesel am Rhein), but the significant arrival of German-speaking migrants took place towards the middle of the nineteenth century. By 1840 more than 24,000 of them had made New York their home.
In the next two decades, when large parts of the territory were plunged into deep socio-political and economic problems, another hundred thousand Germans crossed the Atlantic turning New York into the world’s third-largest German-speaking city, after Berlin and Vienna. [Read more…] about When Manhattan Spoke German: Lüchow’s, Würzburger & Little Germany
For the first decade of its existence, New Amsterdam was a rough place. Located on the tip of Manhattan Island, it was a haven for pirates and smugglers. Many of the earliest rules and regulations were an attempt to control the unruly citizens of a backwater outpost, but officials proved unable to lay down the law. Intemperate drinking was one of the problems.
In 1640 permission was granted by Willem Kieft, Director of the New Netherland Colony, for liquor to be distilled on Staten Island – in contemporary Dutch: Staaten Eylandt – where what is believed to have been the first commercial distillery in North America was built (today Staten Island is home to the Booze History Museum). [Read more…] about Early Distilling History: Puritan Bibles, Gin & Schnapps
One of the effects of colonial expansion in the nineteenth century was that museums stopped being exclusively Euro-centered. The mapping of the annexed world was a responsibility of colonial governments which employed scholars to carry out the tasks of collecting and recording. Curators changed their collecting focus.
Works of art from Africa and Pacific Oceania that were looted, stolen or cheaply acquired without concern about provenance, found their way from British, French, Dutch, and Belgian colonial territories to the museums and curiosity shops of Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Brussels. [Read more…] about The Cake Walk, Prohibition & John Philip Sousa: Ragtime Wild Paris